Tuesday, June 5, 2012


One of the summertime traditions in Fritz's family was making Rumtopf.

Rumtopf (rum pot) is essentially an old method for preserving fruit throughout the summer in sugar and rum. What makes it interesting is that it's also a very SLOW recipe. Done properly, it takes the entire summer to 'cook.'  Today, we can go to the store and buy these fruits anytime. However, the joy of the an old-fashion Rumtopf recipe is that it relies on the slow, staggered ripening crop of summer fruits for success.

This year will be fourth summer we have made Rumtopf, and our experience is that you can experiment with different fruits, but you can't rush the process. You have to start with an early crop (we do strawberries) and patiently wait it out until the fall crop (pears are the last one for us) - and then wait a little longer - and by Christmas, you'll be eating your rum-soaked fruit cocktail and bragging about how long it took you to make.

(And it might take you a while to eat so much - just throw a holiday party! - this is A LOT of fruity-rum.)

Here's how we have had success:

What You Need
  • Rum, about 3 large bottles over the course of the summer
  • A glazed-inside ceramic pot with lid
  • Fruit
  • Sugar
Make sure the rum is regular/unflavored and a minimum 54% alcohol (aka 108 proof). To be honest, I haven't found 54% alcohol rum here in Colorado yet, so we've been improvising and mixing our own using a little bit of math. (For example: 1 liter 38% rum + 1 liter 70% rum =  approximately 2 liters 54% rum, or something like that).

Williams Sonoma clearly raided Germany with their Weck jars and Biergarten tables this year. And also? This so-called fermentation pot. (D., those links are especially for your amusement!) Fritz speculates that calling it a Rum Pot was a little too edgy for the alcohol-adverse American market.  Don't feel like spending $80 on a fermentation pot? No problem: it's essentially a large cookie jar, old-fashion crock pot, or a counter compost container. Ours is a glazed ceramic. The lid doesn't need to - and shouldn't - seal, but you do need something to keep the dust out. Also, you'll be storing liquid and fruit inside it, so be sure the pot is liquid-proof and food-safe. Our Rumtopf container is holds a little more than 1 gallon of water.

Ideally, all fruits are perfectly ripe. Not over-ripe. I listed the fruits we use below. (We are growing almost all of these in our garden, but won't have the quantity to make Rumtopf for years. Until then, we are headed to the supermarket.) You want to pick firm-ish fruits that will maintain their form and color, sort of, after soaking in liquid for several months. Remember: this is a northern european recipe to preserve summer fruits; fruits grown in colder climates are generally the best ingredients. I wouldn't recommend, say, bananas (think of how they turn brown!) or oranges (could be a bloated, skinned mess). In Munich, we always watched the street fruit vendors and bought at the height of the local fruit season.

We begin with strawberries.

500 grams strawberries, de-stemmed, cut into bite sized pieces
250 grams sugar
  • Mix together sugar and fruit. Let sit for 1 hour. 
  • Cover with Rum (minimum of 54% alcohol aka 108 proof), so that the fruit is about covered by an amount of rum about 1 finger's width deep. The pot will be pretty full; but don't worry; it will compress and evaporate before the next fruit.
  • Let stand in a dark, cool place (think: basement) for about 3-4 weeks or until the next fruit is ripe.
Repeat above steps and add to the mixture with a new fruit (and sugar), always covering fruit (and sugar) with rum about 1 fingers width deep. You can use any of the following:

Sour cherries (de-stemmed, de-pitted)
Apricot and peaches (peeled, de-pitted, cut into bite sized pieces)
Currants (Johannisbeeren, in German)
Plums (de-pitted, cut into bite sized pieces)
Pears (peeled, bite sized pieces)

Have you ever made Rumtopf or anything like it? Any suggestions?


Katie said...

Yum and Fun!

Anonymous said...

Yes, the links were very amusing. Our preschool owns several of those old Biergarten Tables, aren't we rich? And I will give you another link: http://www.amazon.de/Bierzeltgarnitur-Festzeltgarnitur-Biertisch-Bierbank-Biertischgarnitur/dp/B003QIDHVW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1339272349&sr=8-1
- for those who do not want to spend five hundred bucks.
My parents used to make Rumtopf as well, I just asked my mom for their composition.

Ann Wyse said...

Wow, D. I don't know why I didn't bother to look up the price of those biergarten tables myself. It's even worse than I thought. The euros convert to about $65 versus $500. Insane.

Ann Wyse said...

(Oops accidentally deleted a comment while translating, but here are additional Rumtopf ideas:)

Sour or Sweet Cherries

also (nontraditional/tropic):
Pineapple (in late fall)

Tarable said...

This sounds fantastic. What a fun and rewarding project!